Tag Archives: Helicopters

Airmobile Groups

An airmobile group

The Ground Troops of Russia’s Southern MD are resurrecting airmobile groups. Recent Mil.ru press-releases have highlighted them. Though clearly still developing, they are far enough along to advertise them.

Shortly after the December 1 start of Russia’s new training year, Southern MD Commander General-Colonel Aleksandr Dvornikov declared that every battalion, regiment, brigade, and division in his AOR will establish and train airmobile groups.

He continued:

“Up to 40 helicopters of various designations — strike, combat-transport and transport — must support the completion of the combat-training missions of each company tactical group.”

Forty helos is a stiff requirement even for the Southern MD with a brigade plus two independent regiments of rotary wing air support.

Airmobile groups have been established in the Volgograd-based 20th MRB. According to Mil.ru, they have spent a month on the Prudboy range training for tactical air assaults, employing helicopter fire support, landing on different terrain day and night, and using night vision goggles.

The 150th MRD in Rostov oblast has airmobile groups. Mil.ru reported on Mi-8AMTSh Terminator helos flying in support of them. The site indicated that the groups are outfitted with the RPG-7B, AGS-17 Plamya grenade launchers, 2S12 Sani mortars, Igla (SA-18) MANPADS, and Belozer satellite comms.

Mil.ru showed the 136th MRB’s airmobile groups with buggy-like light vehicles.

Airmobile group with ATVs

Airmobile groups sound like platoons, so several groups will probably constitute a company-sized unit for divisions or brigades.

In Soviet times, combined arms armies also had airmobile battalions.

Russian divisions and brigades won’t own helos to support airmobile groups. The MD commander, leading the joint strategic command (OSK) in his AOR, will task his air force component to support them.

Some Soviet divisions and armies had organic squadrons and regiments with Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters.

New Russian airmobile groups may not become named TO&E elements, but remain motorized rifle platoons or companies with training sufficient to be designated “airmobile capable” — if only parenthetically.

There’s significant history to this story. The Russian Army lost ownership of its aviation in 2002 when the General Staff gave it to the air force. But, in 2010, all theater air assets came under control of the OSK commander — a Ground Troops general. Then, in 2013, the army surrendered its three air-assault brigades to the Airborne Troops.

So the formation of airmobile groups may be, at least partially, about Russian ground pounders reclaiming some air support and airmobile missions from the other services.

Vertical envelopment wasn’t forgotten in Russia, it just became the exclusive province of the VDV, and to a lesser extent Spetsnaz and Naval Infantry, for a while. General-Colonel Dvornikov appears to be leading the charge to reinvigorate air mobility as a facet of the Russian Army’s tactical doctrine.

Advertisements

Import Substitution

Russian helicopter engines will begin replacing Ukrainian imports.

OAO Klimov announced on 30 April that it will produce VK-2500 helicopter engines to replace those previously supplied by Ukraine’s Motor Sich.  A Klimov representative said the design bureau will manufacture 300-320 annually, including 250 for the Russian military.

Klimov's VK-2500 Helo Engine

Klimov’s VK-2500 Helo Engine

The announcement follows Ukraine’s late March ban on military exports to Russia following its seizure of Crimea.

FGUP Salyut and other Russian firms will produce VK-2500 compressor components.

The Klimov-designed VK-2500 turboshaft powers new Mi-28, Ka-52, and Mi-35 helicopters, and can replace engines on the Mi-17 and Ka-32.  It is an improved version of Klimov’s TV3-117 with increased power, full authority digital engine control, and a longer service life.  Approximately 90% of Russian helicopters carry Klimov engines.

Klimov aims for complete serial production of the VK-2500 by 2016.  It will be assembled at a new facility in St. Petersburg opening this summer.

Russia laid the groundwork for a domestic production line several years ago.  At that time, 500-600 engines per year was the goal.  Even a smaller number, however, means Ukraine’s embargo may slow helicopter deliveries to Russian forces, but not disrupt them altogether.

Zelin’s Update (Part II)

General-Colonel Zelin

In his recent NVO interview, VVS CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin wasn’t as specific about transport aircraft and helicopter acquisition as about fighters.

He mentioned “reestablishing” An-124-100 and An-124-300 production, and said the Il-76MD-90A will fly in July.  The An-70 is moving forward with Ukraine, he says.

The VVS has settled on the An-140-100 as a light transport.  Russia will work jointly with India on a light MTA (multirole transport aircraft?), and Moscow may buy up to 100, according to Zelin.

Zelin concludes VTA must have not less than 300 aircraft.  That might actually be about what it already has.

The CINC says the General Staff wants VTA to be capable of lifting a “light” brigade anywhere in the country or abroad if necessary.

On helicopters, General-Colonel Zelin reemphasized the goal of 1,000 new ones by 2020.

He mentions getting about 100 Mi-26, or Mi-26T, heavy lift helos, as well as the Mi-8AMTSh, Mi-8MTV5, and Mi-38 (another Mi-8 variant). 

Zelin says little about the Mi-28N and Ka-52 except they’re complementary.  He sees no need to choose between them, but the former will be the military’s line combat helicopter.

Barabanov’s Top 20

Defense commentator Mikhail Barabanov published his annotated list of the top 20 military stories of 2011 in yesterday’s Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer.

Some we’ll just note, but Barabanov’s provided interesting details for others.

1.  The continuation of military reform.  The start of the next phase of reforming the Air Forces and Navy.

Barabanov says Air Forces’ reform included the formation of VVKO and the enlargement of Russian air bases.  The reform of the Navy started December 1 and it will soon be restructured into a “new profile.”

2.  Establishment of VVKO.

He comments, “The given construct essentially looks fundamentally like a return to Soviet Voyska PVO Strany (National Air Defense Troops) in the form of a separate service [well, branch] of the Armed Forces.”

3.  The new pay system effective this year.

4.  GPV 2011-2020.

5.  The increase in the Gosoboronzakaz.

Barabanov puts GOZ-2011 at 460 billion rubles, 570 if RDT&E is added.  This was 20 percent more than GOZ-2010, and allowed for the series production of weapons and equipment.

6.  The war between industry and the Defense Ministry.

7.  Development of the PAK FA.

8.  Large helicopter procurement.

Apparently a post-Soviet record.  About 100 new helos, including Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-26, and Mi-24 (Mi-35M), were expected to reach the troops.

9.  Bulava began to fly.

10.  OSK “megacontracts” for submarines.

About 280 billion rubles for modernized proyekt 885 and 955.

11.  Ending serial procurement of many ground systems and equipment.

The Defense Ministry said it didn’t need the T-90, BMP-3, or BMD-4 (!?).  Development of an entire spectrum of new armored vehicle platforms began for procurement after 2015.

12.  Domestic space sector failures.

They evidenced the decline of the OPK’s production capability in the space sector.

13.  “Tsentr-2011” exercises.

They checked the “new profile,” and the greatly enlarged military districts.

14.  Importing arms.

Mistral, Rheinmetall’s training ground in Mulino, foreign sniper rifles, and Israeli UAVs.

15.  Continued growth in Russian arms sales.

$11 billion as opposed to 2010’s $10 billion.  This despite the revolutions in the Arab world.  Rosoboroneksport’s order portfolio is $36 billion.

16.  Arab revolutions.

17.  NATO intervention in Libya.

18.  Military actions in Afghanistan, American troops leave Iraq.

19.  Deadend in missile defense negotiations.

20.  Start of reduced U.S. military spending.

Zelin’s Press Availability

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin made a variety of remarks to the media this morning.  It’s not clear where yet, but it might have been a press-conference at ITAR-TASS.  It’s the season for such things with Air Forces Day and MAKS-2011 just ahead.

At any rate, Zelin had a lot of information on the status of different VVS programs and plans:

  • Army aviation will expand by more than 1,000 helicopters by 2020.  The number of army aviation bases will grow from 8 to 14 during that time.  He mentioned reestablishing production of Mi-26 transports in a POL supply variant.  Zelin doesn’t sound like he’s willing to surrender the VVS’ hold on army aviation.
  • Zelin mentioned getting 8 or 6 new Su-34 this year.  ITAR-TASS gave both numbers, but we’ve seen six elsewhere.
  • The VVS CINC criticized work on the Su-35, saying it has a number of problems.  PAK FA / T-50 is going on schedule, but he wouldn’t say when he expects it to enter the inventory.
  • On UAVs, some drones will go to the Ground Troops per a Genshtab decision, but Zelin says operational-tactical unmanned aircraft will stay at air bases under the control of military district commanders.
  • Without mentioning S-500 development, Zelin talked about new Morfey and Vityaz SAMs.  Morfey is a short-range system mentioned before as part of S-500.  Zelin described Vityaz in greater detail, calling it an improvement on the S-300 with greater capabilities and 16 missiles per launcher.  See ITAR-TASS for this.
  • Zelin said there will be four S-400 regiments by the end of 2011.  He said the second one, the 210th Air Defense Regiment, went on combat duty with it last week, so two more are expected.  The CINC said the manufacturer’s had problems with the system’s long-range missile, but there is an understanding on how to resolve them.  The Air Forces, he says, still want Almaz-Antey to build another production plant.  Interfaks posted on this.
  • The next 6 Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense systems will go to the OSK VKO around Moscow.  Zelin said the first 4 went to the 4th Air Forces and Air Defense Command at Novorossiysk.
  • Another flight demonstration group will be formed using Yak-130 trainers.
  • Zelin expects to get a new A-100 AWACS aircraft, based on the Il-476, by 2016.  He says it will have both air and ground surveillance missions.  The plan has Genshtab and financial support, according to Zelin.

Shamanov on the VDV’s GOZ

General-Lieutenant Shamanov (photo: RIA Novosti / Petr Chernov)

Last Thursday VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov returned to a bit of media spotlight for the first time since returning to duty following serious injuries in a collision with a truck last fall.

Shamanov said the VDV’s part of the state defense order (GOZ) isn’t necessarily proceeding well.  But he claims the BMD-4M was ordered.  He lobbied for a piece of the Arctic defense mission.  And he repeated past calls for his own helicopters.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported Shamanov saying he’s satisfied “on the whole” that the rearmament of the VDV:

“. . . is going according to the strict parameters which were established.  First of all, this concerns the modernization of BMD-1 and BMD-2 and ‘Nona’ self-propelled artillery with automation means.”

But he added:

“The issue of fulfilling the 2011 state defense order for 10 BMD-4M and for 10 standardized ‘Rakushka’ armored personnel carriers, built on a BMD-4M base, is not completely resolved.  The thing is Kurganmashzavod didn’t give a guarantee it would produce them.  Presently, Kurganmashzavod’s financial situation is causing concern.  There are no guarantees that, if all the money comes, the order will be met.” 

Last year Shamanov said the firm was developing and producing the first BMD-4M models on its own to the tune of 200 million rubles.

Still he hopes the problem with fulfilling the 2011 GOZ for the VDV will be resolved soon.  He said there are negotiations, and the problem should be resolved in week or two.

The VDV Commander indicated he’s sending the Genshtab a proposal under which his branch would participate in defending Russia’s Arctic shelf jointly with the Ground Troops.

He told journalists he gave his deputy, General-Major Aleksandr Lentsov,  the task of developing options for VDV units to work with the Ground Troops and Navy in the Arctic.  Shamanov invited the commanders of Naval Infantry brigades and Ground Troops’ air-assault brigades to the VDV’s operational conference in Ryazan the week before last.

Shamanov opined that establishment of an inter-service grouping for the Arctic is “fully possible” but how it might happen remains a topic of discussion.

The press services said Shamanov resurfaced his previous calls for a helicopter regiment co-located with the VDV brigade in Ulyanovsk or division in Pskov.  He said he plans to submit two variants of such a proposal to the Genshtab when it is finished.  

Press sources said he requested the same thing at this time last year.  The Ground Troops-dominated Genshtab apparently frowns on an idea that would eat resources and possibly duplicate the capabilities of the army’s own air-assault brigades.  For his part, maybe Shamanov benefits by repeatedly laying down a marker indicating that the VDV lacks something he considers essential.

Russia is Priority for Mi-28N Deliveries

Mi-28N (photo: Denis Rossin)

Yesterday Rostov Helicopter Plant (‘Rosvertol’) General Director Boris Slyusar said the Russian Armed Forces are the priority for Mi-28N ‘Night Hunter’ deliveries, despite what he claims are many profitable offers from abroad.  According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“We have many requests for the Mi-28N, but the RF Defense Ministry still doesn’t have these systems in sufficient quantity, and we will take its interests into account first.”

Slyusar didn’t give the number of Mi-28N helicopters in Russian forces, but he said the North Caucasus Military District (NCMD) has about 20 ‘Night Hunters,’ and there will be more.  He added:

“Our task is to create in the district’s [NCMD’s] troops in 2011 two groupings of Mi-28N.”

Who knows what he means by groupings.  Squadrons?  A second squadron or two additional squadrons?  The information on the number of Mi-28N delivered is unclear and contradictory.  In late 2009, Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov rather dubiously claimed Russia had already procured 27.

In May, a ‘Rosvertol’ marketing official said Russia would receive two squadrons of Mi-28N helicopters before 2011.  She said two Mi-28N went to the pilot training center at Torzhok in early 2008, and ten more — apparently for the NCMD’s Budennovsk-based 487th Helicopter Regiment — were delivered in 2009.  In mid-2009, ‘Helicopters of Russia’ General Director Andrey Shibitov also told Interfaks-AVN the Russian military had 12 Mi-28N helicopters.

So the question still stands:  a second squadron of maybe 10 helicopters, or two additional squadrons?  One thing’s certain, this goal’s been pushed from 2010 to 2011.

‘Rosvertol’ General Director Slyusar indicated his company sold 10 billion rubles of products in 2009,  and this year sales are more than 15 billion rubles.  Receipts from domestic and export sales are about equal.  By 2015, the company has an ambitious goal of $1 billion in sales.  Slyusar says the company is moving on this plan with modernization, equipment purchases, and people.